What Happened: In early November, Taiwanese Gen Z actor Ouyang Nana launched her lifestyle brand Nabi. With the slogan “embrace your coziness,” Nabi seeks to make consumers’ lives more peaceful and relaxing. Its first collection, the “cloud capsule,” consists of eight pure-white items, including bathrobes, socks, pajamas, and a toy bunny. However, the release was met with heavy skepticism.
In late November, Chinese media outlet The Time Weekly interviewed a manager of a Chinese textile factory. He suggested that as Nabi’s bathrobes were made of polyester fiber, they should only cost about $9 (65 RMB) each. Netizens soon started to question why each bathrobe cost $142 (988 RMB) on Nabi’s WeChat mini-app. Netizens also pointed out that the star’s label would only cover the shipping fee if the order reached $143 (999 RMB). This means that consumers who purchase the bathrobe, the most expensive item in the collection, will have to buy at least one other item — the cheapest of which is a $21 (148 RMB) sleep mask — to secure free shipping.
On Weibo, the hashtag “Ouyang Nana brand’s 988 RMB bathrobe costs less than 100 RMB to produce” has around 520 million views, claiming the 10th spot on the trending topic list at one point on November 30. On Xiaohongshu, many users were mocking the company, posting pictures of common white items, such as napkins and bowls, with the letters “Nabi” on them.
The Jing Take: Complaints about fashion brands overcharging are not new in China. However, what’s especially damaging to Nabi is the design, or the lack thereof, of its “cloud capsule” collection. Since all the products are pure white and the “Nabi” logo is not easily discernible, they highly resemble the standard items issued in hotels but cost significantly more. In other words, there’s no artistic value that justifies Nabi products’ high prices.
Nabi’s brand messaging is also misplaced. As previously observed by Jing Daily, Ouyang Nana is known as a relatable idol associated with the “chillax” trend. Yet the prices of Nabi’s products are beyond the acceptable range of the average consumer and the subpar product materials only compound this.
So far, Ouyang Nana’s foray into owning a brand suggests that a celebrity’s large fanbase does not automatically guarantee success in their personal endeavors. She is well-known in mainland China; her Weibo account has over 20 million followers. Still, the top comments on her Weibo post introducing Nabi accuse her of not being sincere in creating the brand and of prioritizing cash over rewarding her fans.
Ouyang Nana isn’t the first Chinese celebrity to launch a personal line and the results can vary greatly. Chinese idol Justin Huang’s streetwear label TWOEX2, which debuted in 2020, was also greeted with skepticism. It closed its Taobao and Douyin stores this January amid questions regarding its expensive pricing. But local idol Bai Jingting found success in 2021 with the launch of his lifestyle outfit Good Bai; due to its excellent design, collaborations with notable makes such as Crocs, and affordable prices, it was well-received.
This shows that fans can increasingly distinguish celebrity ventures that have high intrinsic value from those that simply wish to profit from their owners’ popularity. Hardcore fans can drive up sales in the short term, but being able to attract consumers on merit is the key to a celebrity brand’s success in China in the long run.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.